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The Triple Team: Mistakes from Jazz’s two best players late lead to Grizzlies comeback win

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) is pressured by Memphis Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane (22), Memphis Grizzlies forward Kyle Anderson (1) and Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr. (13) as the Utah Jazz host the Memphis Grizzlies, Nov. 22, 2021 at Viviant Arena.

Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 119-118 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.

1. Collapse down the stretch from the Jazz

The Jazz had a 6-point lead with 1:10 left in the game, after an outrageous three from Bojan Bogdanovic. Win probability calculations estimated that the Jazz win that game 99.3% of the time. And after that, they just collapsed.

Let’s go through the plays after that:

Ja Morant draws a foul against Rudy Gobert

Honestly, this was a tough one. Gobert blocks Morant’s shot, but Morant gets the ball back after and draws contact on the putback attempt. Gobert’s a little over-eager, but I thought it was basically good defense.

Bogdanovic forces a very difficult three

An ugly possession. Mitchell gets the ball, but forces it to Bogdanovic. He is hot, but there’s just nothing else for him to do but take an impossible stepback here, which he misses. Mitchell gets a chance, too, but it’s from half-court.

Gobert blocks Bane, but JJJ gets the offensive rebound and fouled on putback

After the bad possession, it’s a transition opportunity for the Grizzlies. Gobert plays excellent defense on Desmond Bane to get another block, but Mitchell is caught ball-watching on the rebound, and Jaren Jackson Jr. gets fouled on the putback.

Mitchell awful turnover

Woof. Mitchell has JJJ in isolation, and tries to beat him, but dribbles the ball off his foot with a lob to Gobert and a kickout to Conley both available.

Conley fouls Morant

Conley fouls Morant in transition — it’s a good foul in that situation, honestly.

The free-throw tip call

Gobert doesn’t do enough to box out JJJ, allowing himself to be pushed under the rim — but not so much it rises to the level of a foul, in my opinion. The outside ref, Brett Nansel, thinks the touch is offensive goaltending. I did too, honestly.

On replay, though, they decide it isn’t: in the explanation, the crew says because the shot “doesn’t have the opportunity to score.” But that’s interesting, in my opinion: the rulebook talks about that, but also talks about whether or not the ball is on the rim still.

Is the ball still on the rim when contact is made? I think it is. Still shots can be obfuscating, but this one does look relatively definitive.

The refereeing certainly didn’t help, but anyway.

The JJJ three

Gobert loses the tip, then definitely over-helps here, especially up two. He has to have the awareness to not give up the 3-point shot there, not to anybody. A two isn’t good, but a three is death. Big mistake by him.

The Mitchell miss at the end

Bleh. Just not a good look. Use the screen, or go to that side and find someone on the weak side, or even do the between-the-leg step-back move you were trying to do on the last possession.

In the end, it was mistakes from the Jazz’s two best players that cost them a win tonight. Does that make you feel better or worse? I don’t know.

2. Donovan Mitchell’s shot selection

I’m just going to post Donovan Mitchell’s shots tonight. How many of them are good looks?

I mean there’s one clean layup in there. There’s a few makeable pull-up threes. And there are a lot of contested looks.

It’s hard to complain too much: Mitchell had eight assists tonight, so it’s not that he was super selfish. But I thought the offense could have run even more through Mike Conley, who was superb. The Jazz were killing it on Conley/Gobert pick and roll, but didn’t get many of those looks in the game’s final two minutes.

It also goes to illustrate another point about the Jazz’s offense: the Jazz are at their best when their other play finishers can do what they do best. Here’s the Jazz’s points per shot for this season:

Gobert and Hassan Whiteside lobs are great offense, so too are threes from Conley, Bogdanovic, Ingles, and O’Neale. Mitchell and Clarkson “force up tough looks” time — less so.

And yet, no one doubts that those players are valuable! But I suspect that the Jazz could juice their offense even further by getting the other players more shots, and leaving the Mitchell-trying-to-score-by-himself play until the end of the shot clock.

(I say this full well knowing that the Jazz are actually the No. 1 offensive team in the league right now. I just think they can be even better.)

3. Jazz also need more consistent defense from those two, too

Right now, I don’t think either Mitchell or Gobert are giving their best defensive effort.

Here’s a good example: early in the game, Bane has the ball, attacking in transition.

Gobert’s just jogging down the court — I certainly know he can run faster. And Mitchell just seems pretty okay with Bane beating him one-on-one.

Here’s just a little Brandon Clarke shot from the free-throw line. Does Gobert get close to contesting it? No — even though there’s no other threat for him to worry about. Look at Quin Snyder making the “contest that!” gesture on the sideline.

Both turned it on defensively for the final six minutes, and yes, Gobert ended up with five blocks. And yet, I think they can both play so much better defensively — and if they had played even one possession more of defense, the Jazz win this game.

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